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Costello – the numbers but not the bottle ?

September 11th, 2007

Looking at today’s news, it’s pretty clear that the Prime Ministership is Peter Costello’s for the asking. We have two senior ministers, Downer and Turnbull giving non-denial denials to claims that they want Howard out. That means there have to be enough numbers for a serious challenge. That in turn means that Howard’s position is untenable, if such a challenge is made. Howard might win a party-room vote, but he would be doomed at the election even if he did. By contrast, Costello would have a chance. The remorseless logic of game theory now implies that anyone who cares about keeping their seat should support the challenger, and try to force Howard to bow out gracefully.

But Howard has made it clear he won’t do this in the absence of an overt challenge from Costello. He judges, on the basis of past experience that Costello won’t have the bottle*, and that facing the challenge down gives him a chance to present himself as a strong leader in the contest with Rudd.

* I had various thoughts about the origin of this term for nerve/guts. A quick search of the Internet found support for all my ideas and quite a few I hadn’t thought of. It looks as if it will remain a mystery.

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  1. swio
    September 11th, 2007 at 17:48 | #1

    If they are serious about supporting Costello in a leadership challenge they must be absolutely panicing. All the polling as well as common sense suggests Costello would do worse than Howard at the election. The only reason for backing a Costello challenge to Howard at this point is if they have stopped thinking rationally, or things are looking so bad that they have to try something even if it is a very long shot.

  2. September 11th, 2007 at 18:22 | #2

    surely costello can be given credit for not wanting to take the helm of a sinking ship. it’s not lack of bottle, it’s common sense.

    if he wants to stay on, his supporters can point to the result of howard staying too long and suggest he is best placed to lead the party on the “i told you so” principle.

    not that i care, of course, the internal faction-fighting of the laboral party won’t have any significant result for oz. howardlite, or kevvie as we have come to love him, is different from howard. but not nearly enough for people who get nervous about unfettered police, uranium sales, and a willingness to sit at the same table as george bush.

  3. September 11th, 2007 at 19:21 | #3

    My money is on:

    Howard stepping down, effective more or less immediately.

    The Liberal Party are squabbling about replacing him. In his shoes I would say “bugger you all. You don’t think I am up to it? Fine, I’ll quit now, split ‘er up among yourselves and see how you go.”
    “It’s all yours now, smarties”

  4. jquiggin
    September 11th, 2007 at 19:31 | #4

    You could be right, Steve, and it’s what I would probably do, but he’s very stubborn, part of the reason he’s still around

  5. gerard
    September 11th, 2007 at 19:51 | #5

    Poor old liberals, damned if they you do damned if they don’t. Even if Howard did contest the election would he be planning to stay for another full term? I guess the question wouldn’t come up, since the only question would be how small a minority the Libs would retain in the House. The libs best bet is a leadership switch and a December election but it’s too late for sultana nuts and he’s probably much more interested in the seven figure salary waiting for him in the private sector. Turnbull would probably be the best face for the Libs but he’s too inexperienced and his is a marginal seat.

  6. September 11th, 2007 at 20:19 | #6

    JQ: Oh indeed, he’s very stubborn, and not afraid of a stoush.

    He is just as likely tomorrow to call this party meeting and put them on the spot, “You fellers wanna have a go at rolling me? Anyone wanna have a shot at the title?”

    *silence*

    “Thought as much”

  7. Jill Rush
    September 11th, 2007 at 20:41 | #7

    Howard believes he can win – the Australian public is only joking. He’s apologised for Workchoices that mightn’t be enough but followed by rivers of dough to those electorates they wish to firewall may be enough to hang on.

    He will stare them down as his team is weak and he had plenty of practice in the 80′s – something that has dictated his no holds barred style.

    He is hoping for something like the Tampa to come to his aid – terrorists; anybody;- so he will hold on for an election as long as he can having stared them all down. Reminds me of Waco – they’ll all support him as the group are taken out by the voters.

  8. observa
    September 12th, 2007 at 01:00 | #8

    Downer with Red Kerry probing hard tonight sounded like they’re definitely running with Howard now. You’d hardly think he’d come on the media at all if there were any serious doubt about that today. The old maestro it is for damage control now. Perhaps that’s his parting gift to the party, to take the fall and all the blame. Behind me and over the top at dawn eh lads?

  9. observa
    September 12th, 2007 at 01:13 | #9

    It’s been a pleasure serving with you all. Wait for my signal!

    The election date will be called tomorrow morning.

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